A bacterium has been found that supports very high levels of toxicity and can convert natural compounds into 24-carat gold.
The process is on display in an art gallery to show the relationship between ancient alchemy and modern microbiology.
A team from the University of Michigan discovered a bacterium, Cupriavidus metallidurans, that withstands very high levels of toxicity and can convert natural compounds into 24-karat gold. The process is known as microbial alchemy.
The team was led by Kazem Kashefi, professor of mycobiology and molecular genetics, and Adam Brown, professor of electronic art. Together they combined the research with an art installation called The Great Work of the Metal Lover, which features a combination of biotechnology, art and alchemy. The sculpture is a portable laboratory that produces a gold bar in front of the audience.
This process is time consuming and on a large scale would be too costly. For this reason, Brown preferred that the work be used to “ask questions about greed, economics and the impact on the environment, focusing on the ethics related to the science and engineering of nature.”
“Art has the ability to ask about the impact of science on the world, and The Great Work of the Metal Lover speaks directly to these scientific concerns,” said Brown.